Recent research, published in the scientific magazine Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, has shown that people who exercise regularly are better creative thinkers. The study, carried out by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato, sought to investigate if exercise promoted divergent thinking and convergent thinking.
Divergent thinking; the ability to think up as many solutions for a problem as possible, and convergent thinking; thinking that leads to one solution that is correct, are two important aspects of creative thinking. In order to test the effects of exercise on these two types of thinking, Colzato gave tasks to two groups; one group who did not exercise and another who exercised around four times a week.
The first task was an alternate uses test, where the participants had to list all the uses for a pen that they could think of. The second was a remote associates task where the participants had to come up with the link between three words that did not relate to each other. (An example being; broken, clear, eye, the link of which is glass.) The results showed that in the remote associates task, the group who exercised regularly performed better than the group who didn’t.
Colzato says these results show that exercise is not just important for a healthy body but also a healthy mind. She says that when the body is familiar with regular exercise, the mind is able to think more flexibly. However, the results are not the same if the body is unused to being active as the brain uses a big part of energy intended for the creative thinking process on performing the physical activity.
So it seems that writers such as C.S. Lewis, who made a point of scheduling a walk into his strictly timetabled writing day, were right in their belief that exercise helped their creative abilities. The evidence shows that some regular exercise really does get the creative juices flowing. Colzato says, “Exercising on a regular basis [acts] as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways.”